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Published April 15, 2008 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

A common genetic target for environmental and heritable influences on aggressiveness in Drosophila


Environmental and genetic factors can modulate aggressiveness, but the biological mechanisms underlying their influence are largely unknown. Social experience with conspecifics suppresses aggressiveness in both vertebrate and invertebrate species, including Drosophila. We searched for genes whose expression levels correlate with the influence of social experience on aggressiveness in Drosophila by performing microarray analysis of head tissue from socially isolated (aggressive) vs. socially experienced (nonaggressive) male flies. Among {approx}200 differentially expressed genes, only one was also present in a gene set previously identified by profiling Drosophila strains subjected to genetic selection for differences in aggressiveness [Dierick HA, Greenspan RJ (2006) Nat Genet 38:1023–1031]. This gene, Cyp6a20, encodes a cytochrome P450. Social experience increased Cyp6a20 expression and decreased aggressiveness in a reversible manner. In Cyp6a20 mutants, aggressiveness was increased in group-housed but not socially isolated flies. These data identify a common genetic target for environmental and heritable influences on aggressiveness. Cyp6a20 is expressed in a subset of nonneuronal support cells associated with pheromone-sensing olfactory sensilla, suggesting that social experience may influence aggressiveness by regulating pheromone sensitivity.

Additional Information

© 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Freely available online through the PNAS open access option. Contributed by David J. Anderson, February 11, 2008 (received for review November 12, 2007). Published online on April 11, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0801327105. This contribution is part of the special series of Inaugural Articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected on May 1, 2007. Microarray data were generated and analyzed with the help of the Millard and Muriel Jacobs Genetics and Genomics Laboratory at Caltech. We thank H. Dierick and R. Greenspan for providing the Cantonized Cyp6a20 mutant, S. Hoyer and M. Heisenberg for providing their aggression arena and sharing unpublished data, D. P. Smith for providing LUSH antibody, G. Carvalho for providing the Df(2R)BSC11/SM6a strain, C. Bargmann for helpful comments on the manuscript, and D.J.A. laboratory members for technical assistance and helpful discussions. H.D. is supported by a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Society. D.J.A. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Author contributions: L.W. and D.J.A. designed research; L.W. performed research; H.D. and P.P. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; L.W. and D.J.A. analyzed data; and L.W. and D.J.A. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. Data deposition: The data reported in this paper have been deposited in the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo (accession no. GSE6994). This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0801327105/DCSupplemental.

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Published - WANpnas08.pdf

Supplemental Material - WANpnas08dataset1.xls

Supplemental Material - WANpnas08supp.pdf


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